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Clay County

Genealogy and History


Xenia Township History

From Clay County Plat Book
Flora Record Publishing Company
unknown date

Early Settlers
Xenia Township formerly embraced all that portion of the county now known as Xenia and Songer Townships, and was separated from the latter by the adoption of township organization in 1861. In 1867, they were again united by act of the Legislature, and so remained until 1869, when they were again separated.
Xenia Township, so named from the old town of Xenia, which was within its limits, is a half Congressional township, with its longest dimensions east and west, and consequently contains eighteen sections. Its northern boundary is formed by Songer Township, the eastern boundary being Harter Township; the south is bounded by Wayne County, and the west by Marion County; the township, therefore, lies in Township 2 north, Range 5 east.
Among the early permanent settlements in Clay County was the one formed in Xenia Township. It is impossible, at this late day to obtain absolute dates of the coming of the first settlers, or to determine fully who the first comer was; but from the best authenticated account, the first white man to settle in the township was a Mr. Kiffcart, who came previous to the year 1818. He located on the land now occupied by D. W. Strain, but only remained for a few years, and was followed to the same place by one Retherford, who came from St. Clair County, Ill. After a residence of a few years, Retherford left the county for the county's good, as well as to avoid the associations of an uncongenial wife.
The next actual settlement was made by William Lewis, who settled in 1818 on what has long been known as the old Davenport farm. Mr. Lewis was a native of North Carolina, but came to Clay County from Indiana. He was a man of more than ordinary ability for the time in which he lived. Like most pioneers, he depended largely upon his gun for the necessary meat to supply his table, and especially excelled in the deer chase and in the search for wild honey; later in life, he became one of the leading farmers and stock raisers of the county, and served the township for some years as Justice of the Peace. The county records show two marriages returns over his name, bearing the dates of June and August, 1820. About 1830, Mr. Lewis left the township owing, as we are informed, to the pressure of public opinion, those who knew him best being satisfied that his desire for gain had rendered him somewhat covetous. In 1830, he entered land near Georgetown, in Bible Grove Township, where he died many years ago.
A Mr. Fitch settled a few years subsequent to the coming of Lewis a short distance south of the residence of Mr. Lewis, and on the original route through the township of the '' old trail " which had been changed so that two roads crossed the township, uniting with each other at the extremities of the township east and west. Both Mr. Lewis and Mr. Fitch kept a public house or inn, and consequently, a strife arose between them, each trying to induce the general travel past his own house. As a means to this end, they resorted to advertising, which was done by placing a placard on the sign -post which stood at the point of divergence of the two roads, each claiming his road to be the shortest and best. It is said that Lewis was at last successful, owing to his extreme height, which enabled him to nail his placard high above that of his rival, and thus the longest pole, as is usual, knocked the persimmons.
In 1822, Isaac Elliott came from Washington County, Ind., to Clay County, Ill., and in 1824, entered a tract of land in Section 1 of Xenia Township. He is still a resident of the same place, and we deem him worthy of more than a passing notice, as he now enjoys the honor of being the oldest settler in the county. He was born in North Carolina on the 8th of January, 1800, and is therefore, eighty- four years old, and has been a resident of the county sixty-two years, and of Xenia Township for the past sixty years. His father John Elliott, died in North Carolina in 1807, and his mother, whose maiden name was Susanna Cleaver, soon after removed to the Indiana Territory, where Isaac grew to manhood. He was married in Floyd County, Ind., in 1824, to Delilah Walker, and again in Clay County, Ill., in 1866, to his present wife, Mary, widow of James N. McLin. His first wife died in Clay County in 1865, leaving two children John Wesley Elliott and Catherine, wife of Thomas Monical. Mr. Elliott was a member of the first grand jury ever assembled in Clay County, and let it be recorded to his lasting credit that no man in the county has ever evinced greater zeal for the Christian religion than has been manifested in the life of this old pioneer, having been a faithful and honored member of the M. E. Church for fifty-three years.
About 1830, the families of John Griffith and Dr. John Davenport settled in the township. John Griffith came from Kentucky and located in the southern part of the township, and for many years exerted a potent influence for good. He was a pioneer Methodist preacher of more than ordinary ability, and served a term in the State Legislature, during which he won honors for himself, giving his constituency the benefits of his faithful service and ripe judgment. He died in Xenia Township in 1858. Of his descendants, several are now living in the county and numbered among its most worthy citizens.
Dr. John Davenport bought the farm of William Lewis, now known as the Davenport farm. He came from Virginia, was a practicing physician, with which he combined general farming. He was very successful in the treatment of the prevalent diseases of the new country, and the first physician in the township; also kept the first post office known as the Cato Post Office. This position he accepted against his will, and at the earnest solicitation of his neighbors. As a result, his other cares so occupied his time that, when called upon by Uncle Sam for a report, his report was not ready, and he told the aforesaid Uncle Sam to take the office and go to h—1 with it, and thus ended his service as a Government official. His successor in the office was John Jordon, who came to the township about 1835, settling in Section 3 on the State road, where he kept a store. Two sons, Frank and Frederick Jordon still reside in the county.
Maj. John Onstott, in 1828, settled in Section 4, and came from Indiana. He kept a stage stand on the old road, and was a prominent farmer and a man of great energy and perseverance. He recruited a company for the Black Hawk war, and was its Captain. He died in May, 1876. Of his family, two sons, Levi and John Onstott, are now residents of the county ; a daughter, Sophia Edwards, is a resident of Carlyle, Ill.
Abram, Jacob, Frederick, John, Samuel, James and Giles Songer, with their widowed mother, came to the county from Virginia in 1828. Perhaps no family has reflected more honor upon the township than has this family of sterling men. Abram served with Maj. Onstott in the Black Hawk war, and is still in the township. Frederick afterward removed to Songer Township, and died in the town of Kinmundy, Ill. John was noted for his business integrity, and was one of the proprietors of the village of Xenia, and died in 1860.
The Rev. Joseph Helmn and his father-in-law, John Maxey, settled on Ramsey's Prairie, in the northeast part of the township, about 1832. Joseph Helmn was a farmer, and also a Methodist preacher of the shouting order. He traveled over a radius of for forty miles, holding revival meetings. He was an uneducated man, but nature had done much for him. and for mental penetration and oratorical ability he surpassed most men of his day and surroundings. He died in the township, and is buried in the old camp ground cemetery. Maxey was an unpolished man of noble parts, and was a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Conference. There are no descendants of either of these pioneers in Clay County.
In 1831. George and Rebecca Baity came from North Carolina and settled in the southern part of the township. They were members of the Old-School Baptist Church, and their descendants are a prominent factor in the community at the present time. George Baity was elected to the office of Justice of the Peace early in the political history of the township, and held the office without an intermission until his death, which occurred in the township in December, 1847. The responsibilities of the office were then placed in the hands of his son, Isaac Baity, who still holds the position. His wife died but recently at a very advanced age. Of the sons, Isaac, James, Giles and Alex are still living.
Otho Davenport, brother of Dr. John Davenport, came to the township and located in Section 2 in the year 1833. He taught an early school in the township, where he soon became prominent. In 1846, he removed to St Clair County, where he died in 1853.
In 1835, Samuel Whiteley built a cabin in Section 6, and the year following Leonard Melton settled in the same section. John Peirce settled on the same section in 1837. He came originally from New Hampshire, married a daughter of Otho Davenport, and is still living and a resident of the village of Xenia.
Robert Montgomery came in 1837, as did his sons, Isaac and William. The widow of the latter still lives on the old homestead, and is the wife of Jesse Clemens. Two brothers, William and John Lawson, settled in 1838, the former in Section 7 and the latter in Section 6. William was a Baptist minister, and John kept a country store. Both in the meantime engaged in farming. Holman, Anderson, Jarvis, Cook and Henderson came about 1838.
From this time to 1850, a large number of families settled in this township, among whom were N. B. Nelms, Gilbert Pritchet, a son-in-law of Dr. Davenport, and Aaron Finch. Dr. James A. Finch, son of Aaron, was the second resident physician of the township. He was a graduate of the Chicago Rush Medical College, and married a daughter of John Griffith. Dr. Finch died in September, 1851, and his widow afterward married a lawyer named Griffin, and resides in Louisville, Clay County.
Following are a few of the earliest land entries in the township: 1830, John Onstott, in Section 1; 1836, Samuel Whiteley, Section 6; Isaac Elliott, Section 1; William Childress, Section 2; John Davenport, John Jordon and John Songer, in Section 3; Jacob Songer, Section 10; William Holman, Rebecca Bosley and George Bailey, in Section 11; John Speaks, Section 12, and Gideon Bosley, in Section 15. In 1837, John and Edward Peirce, in Section 5; Otho Davenport and Leonard Melton, in Section 6; Mary and Abram Songer, Section 15.
The first death that occurred was that of a child of John Speaks, in Section 12. This was the first burial in what is now the Camp Ground Graveyard.
The marriage of William George and Elizabeth Songer was doubtless the first wedding, but who the first child born may have been is a question too nice for even the oldest inhabitant.

Early Schools
In 1830, the first schoolhouse was built. It was made of round logs, having a puncheon floor, and old-fashioned "stick in the mud" chimney, and, to afford a little light, a portion of a log was cut away and the opening covered with a greased paper. This house stood in the timber in Section 21. Rev. Whiteley was the first teacher, and taught one term. He was well qualified for the responsibilities of a pioneer teacher, and conducted school with marked ability. This school was supported by the families throughout a radius of four miles, some attending even farther remote than that, among whom were the children of Thomas Elliott, who then lived in the house now occupied by John A. Gerhart, near Flora. Isaac Elliott and Levi Onstott attended the same school. In 1834, another schoolhouse was erected, located in Section 3, on land now occupied by the village of Xenia. George Baity taught the first school in this house, and proved a very good teacher, but was succeeded by some of questionable ability. The township now supports four public schools, employing seven teachers.

Village of Xenia

The first village of the township was that of Xenia, now called Upper Town, to distinguish it from Xenia proper. It was laid out in 1834 by Dr. John Davenport, John O.Pierce and John A. Gowdy, the two last named being non-residents, and is located in the northwest quarter of Section D 3, on the old State road.
The first business enterprises of this new village was a horse mill, a small carding mill owned by John Onstott, and a general store kept by a man named Colman. Colman believing it better to face the ills we have than fly to those we know not of, sold strictly for cash, and spared no paint to notify the people that no indigent customer need apply without the necessary lucre; and while he was not required to cry after his goods, he mourned over them until they were shelf -worn and stale.
After a time, more pretentious business houses were erected, a few more families moved to town, a hotel was erected, and as has already been said, a schoolhouse and church were built, and the aspirations as well as the admiration of its people seemed to have reached their zenith, when the coming of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad forever sealed the doom of the once happy village, many of its best buildings having been removed to the new town.
The present village of Xenia, as has just been intimated, was a sequence of the coming of the railroad. It was laid out and platted in 1854 by Songer, Camp & Co., who were working in the interest of the road, the laud being furnished by John Pierce and John Songer, and is situated in the southwest quarter of Section 3 and the northwest quarter of Section 10. The village has sustained considerable growth and has a population of about 1,000. It has always been considered a good business point, and has been favored with many very substantial men, a number of whom are still there.
Among the more important business men may be mentioned the names of J. W. Westcott, David Strain and George Lappin, dry goods merchants; Thornes Pinty, general merchandise, and one of the wealthist men in the county; D. M. Maxey also deals in general merchandise and drugs; J. R. Gauger, druggist; T. O. Peirce, Joseph Tully (who is also the Postmaster), M. Symonds and Robert Flemin are also leading merchants, besides several others of minor importance, as well as two boot and shoe stores, which are among the solid enterprises of the town. Besides the business already referred to, the village supports a machine shop, a wagon and carriage manufactory, steam cider mill and first-class marble works. The Moody House is kept by Charles Moody and is the principal hotel of the town. J. P. Hill and J. G. Hill each are engaged In the hotel business on a smaller scale. There are two flouring mills, both frame buildings, and each containing three sets of buhrs or stones, and having a capacity of fifty barrels of flour per day. One is known as the Eclipse Mills and is owned by Wescott, Bryan & Co., but operated by M. Spaulding & Co., to whom it is rented. The other is known as the Excelsior Mills, and was originally built for a lint mill and converted into a flouring mill in 1873 by Dayton & Davis. It is now under the management of D. W. Riley & Son. A woolen mill is also a prominent feature of the town.
The churches of the village are three in number, viz., Methodist, Baptist and Christian.

Early Churches

Religious worship has been held within the township since a very early date. Among the early settlers, as has already been noticed, were some zealous ministers, who lost no opportunities to appeal to the consciences and hearts of the people. A suitable place for meeting, however, presented no small barrier to their prosperity, and yet they would meet in their rude cabin homes, and there listen to the rough eloquence of their pioneer teachers. The first religious gathering, of which we have any account, was held at the house of John Onstott about 1830, and was conducted by a Rev. Whiteley, of Baptist faith, and a resident of what is now Songer Township, and the man who taught the first school in Xenia Township. Of those present at this meeting, we know of none now living except Uncle Isaac Elliott. The Baptists afterward formed a society and erected a log church near the residence of John Onstott. This house has long since been torn away, and replaced by a frame building near the same site.
The first Methodist society was organized about 1832 by Rev. Simeon Walker, consisting of about twelve members, among whom were Isaac Elliott and wife, Jacob Songer and wife, and Abram Songer and wife. For some years they worshiped in the private houses, later in the schoolhouse in old Xenia, where they finally built a brick church.
Simeon Walker, referred to above, was a man of wonderful endurance, earnest and very forcible in his appeals to the hearts of his people, and now has two sons who are noted ministers in the Methodist Conference.
The first Methodist Episcopal Church was built in Upper Town about 1845. It was a brick structure, and was built with the aid of but little ready cash, and was paid for with cattle, colts, sheep, hogs, or whatever the patron might be able to contribute. The only church of the society now in the township is the Xenia Methodist Episcopal Church, a brick building that was erected in 1865, at a cost of about $4,000. This society consists of about seventy-five members, and is the principal society of the Xenia Circuit, which comprises four appointments. Since the building of the new church, the following-named pastors have served the society: Revs. Myers, J. S. Barns, Ray, C. D. Lingenfelter, C. W. Branine, Abram Campbell, R. M. Carter, S. J. Harrington, T. J. Massey, W. B. Bruner, S. P. Chapin, and H. Manifold, the present preacher in charge.
A society of the Methodist Episcopal Church South was formed in 1864, consisting of about two dozen members, most of whom withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church proper. They were organized by J. W. Westcott, of Xenia, and among the original members were Abram and Jacob Songer with their wives, Caleb Lovelace and wife, William Smothers and wife, Louisa, Priscilla and Sarah Lovelace, Mary J. Songer and others. Their church, which is a humble log structure, was built in 1865, and is located on the farm of Caleb Lovelace, on Section 15, and known as the Pleasant Grove Church. It was dedicated by Rev. M. R. Jones. Their pastor of first year was J. W. Westcott, succeeded by Rev. J. A. Beagle ; the succession of ministers to the present time being Rev. Pierson, J. W. Westcott, T. M. Prickett, Rollins, T. M. Ragsdale, and H. K. Jones, the present pastor.
The organization of the Christian Church dates back to 1857, and was effected by the Rev. Philo P. Dibble, with thirty-seven original members, among whom were Hiram Gibson and wife, Michael Davis and wife, William La Rue and wife, Abram Gibson, John Bradley, James Fisher, Mrs. Symonds, Dr. H. Winans, Phoebe Dunn, James Fisher and others. The society first worshiped in an old wooden building in Upper Town, which they rented for the purpose ; and in 1871 their present frame church was erected, costing about $2,600. Revs. Bradley, John A. Williams and R. B. Henry have been the principal pastors. Their present official board consists of Hiram Gibson, Deacon ; Wesley McGrew, Elder ; and Asa Porter, Clerk.
Besides their church in the village of Xenia, the Baptists have a neat little frame church on the old Onstott farm, near where was built the first church of the township.

The Xenia Lodge, No. 485, A. F. & A. M.. was organized about 1865 in Oskaloosa, and was then known as the Oskaloosa Lodge, No. 485, and was removed to Xenia in 1879. Among the charter members were: Dr. James B.Harrison, Master; William Gammon, Senior Warden; William Krutsinger, Junior Warden; Silas Gammon, Secretary; Harris Gammon, Alfonzo Bryant and A. H.Porter. They tiow have membership of twenty-five, with their present officers as follows: J. "W. Westcoft. Master; C. C. Ramsey, Senior Warden; T. W. Kepley, Junior Warden; T. M. Cox, Treasurer; C. P. Evans, Secretary; Harry Evans, Senior Deacon; George S. Lappin, Junior Deacon; and S. E. Payne, Tiler. Regular meetings held in T. O. Peirce's Hall.
The old Xenia Lodge was the first in the township, and was organized in 1856 or 1857. They at one time were in a flourishing condition, having more than sixty members, but owing to the removal of many of its most influential members the organization was disbanded in 1871. Among the charter members of this lodge appear the names of R. J. Holtsclaw, N. J. Martin, J. W. Westcott and N. B. Nelms.
Rounceville Lodge, No. 213, I. O. O. F., now called Orphan's Hope Lodge, No. 213. was organized in October, 1856, by J. S. Irwin, of Samaritan Lodge, No. 111. From 1860 until 1868, the society did not flourish, and no meetings were held during that interval for want of a quorum. The lodge however was restored by dispensation of the Grand Master of Illinois, and William Elston was elected Noble Grand; John Peirce, Vice Grand; Henry R. Gregory, Secretary ; and S. D. Jaynes, Treasurer. The society is now flourishing, and meets regularly in Peirce's Hall. The lodge controls a cemetery in Section 9 of the township.
The Knights of Honor also have a healthy Society in Xenia. and were organized April 11, 1879, with twenty charter members, viz.: F. A. Davis, J. F. Davis, Henry Davis, M. Spaulding,W. O. Brissenden, L. A. Baity, F. M. Baity, E. K. Rose, E. M. Rose, James Clark, James Kendall, T. Smith, J. A. Songer, John R. Bryan, R. Gaw, A. R. Jones, S. E. Paine and R. Flemin. Their first election resulted in selection of J.A. Songer. Dictator; F. M. Baity, Vice Dictator; A. R. Jones, Reporter; S. E. Paine, Treasurer; F. A. Davis, Chaplain. The present officers are: M. Spalding, Dictator; E. M. Rose, Vice Dictator; E. K. Rose, Assistant Dictator; W. O. Brissenden, Reporter; L. A. Baity, Treasurer; A. R. Jones, P. D.; and R. Flemin, Financial Reporter. Meet every alternate Friday night in Flemin's Hall.

Officers of the Township

The following is the list of officers of the township for the past ten years :

1874—Supervisor, B. B. Thomas ; Assessor, Charles Smith ; Collector, James Oglesby ; Clerk, James S. Roy; Commissioners of Highways, Alexander Vickery, H. Baity, J. J. Anderson.
1875—Supervisor, B. B. Thomas ; Assessor, R. S. Evans ; Collector, Alexander Baity ; Clerk, J. S. Roy ; Commissioner of Highways, John Lawson.
1876—Supervisor, B. B. Thomas ; Assessor, G. M. Filson ; Collector, James Songer; Clerk, J. R. Gauger ; Commissioner of Highways, J. J. Anderson.
1877—Supervisor, John R. Gauger ; Assessor, A. H. Porter ; Collector, Gilbert Pritchett ; Clerk, Allen Evans; Commissioners of Highways, William Davis, Isaac Baity, John S. Symonds and L. C. McNeal ; Justices of the Peace, Alexander Baity, L.A. Smith and B. F. Modlin, Constables.
1878—Supervisor, B. B. Thomas ; Assessor, Charles Friend ; Collector, James Songer ; Clerk, J. R. Gauger; Commissioner of Highways, F. A. Davis.
1879—Supervisor, E. S. Shirley; Assessor, J. R. Gauger; Collector, J. P. Hill; Clerk, John T. Renick; Commissioner of Highways, Frank Buffington.
1880—Supervisor, A. H. Kenick; Assessor, O. S. Jarvis; Collector, H. H. Bryan; Clerk, A. R. Jones; Commissioner of Highways, William Davis.
1881—Supervisor, L. A. Gauger; Assessor, L. A. Baity; Collector, A. R. Jones; Clerk, J. P. Hill. Isaac Baity, Justice of Peace, and Hiram Songer and J. W. Cable, Constables.
1882—Supervisor, L. A. Gauger; Assessor, C. O. Ramsey; Collector, R. M. Maxey; Clerk, G. W. Cox; Commisssoner of Highways, Alex Baity; Constable, B. F. Modlin
1883—Supervisor, U. F. Strain; Assessor, T. W. Kepley; Collector, W. O. Brissenden; Clerk, G. M. Allen; Commissioner of Highways, Charles Songer; Constables, Giles Baity, J. M. Dean and S. K. Oglesby.

The township on general elections has always been Democratic.

["History of Wayne and Clay Counties, Illinois 1884"]



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